Siem Reap & Angkor Wat in 5 (or less) days
Atualizado: 27 de fev.
Enchanting Buddhist temples dating back to the 6th century, which were later converted to Hinduism around the 13th century, and still hold a sacred allure to this day.
Alongside the rich history and culture, you'll be amazed by the breathtaking landscapes, colorful regional markets, charming traditional villages, and mouth-watering cuisine. And with warm and welcoming locals, plus plenty of sunshine, there's no better time to discover this amazing region of Cambodia.
I personally loved every moment of my visit and would definitely go back again. Trust me, you won't regret exploring this stunning part of Cambodia!
Sunrise on Angkor Wat temple.
Visiting the temples of Angkor was a dream that I had for a long time. I'm not a Buddhist or a Hindu, but I have that thirst to discover distant places, different cultures and listen to stories that we don't learn at school, nor are told by our ancestors. It's killing two birds with one stone: there was no way we could leave Cambodia, and especially Siem Reap, out of our first family trip to Southeast Asia.
I've already written about our 3-week trip to Southeast Asia, in which we visited Thailand, Cambodia and Laos - in this post you'll find the complete itinerary and general tips for visiting the 3 countries.
As time was limited (and money short), we chose to visit, in Cambodia, only Siem Reap.
Although we stayed 6 days in Siem Reap, there were 5 days of activities, which are described below. With a little planning, you can see everything in 4 days, but if you really have less time, in 3 or 2 days you can cover the highlights of Siem Reap.
IN THIS POST YOU WILL FIND:
What to do in 5 days in Siem Reap
What to do in 4 days in Siem Reap
What to do in 3 or 2 days in Siem Reap
Detailed itinerary on Google MyMaps
PIN to save to your PINTEREST account
Ta Prohm Temple (Tomb Raider Temple)
HOW TO GET THERE
Siem Reap is well served by flights from several locations in Southeast Asia. We flew from Bangkok on AirAsia, on a direct flight that lasted just over 1 hour (we left at 9:55 am and landed at 11:00 am). Our hotel offered complimentary airport pick-up; it took about 15-20 minutes from the airport to the hotel.
CURRENCY & MONEY
Cambodia's local currency is the Riel, but US dollars are widely accepted. Prices in restaurants, hotels, markets, laundries, etc., especially in the touristic area, are set in US$.
It's good to have US$ in cash and change - take as many US$1, 5 and 10 bills as you can, they will come in handy (coins are not accepted). You often pay in US$ and receives the change in Riels: US$1.00 = 4200 Riels (Jan/23), and it was common to round up (both to pay and to receive change) 4000 Riels per dollar.
We had no difficulty communicating in English in Siem Reap, but with few exceptions, people's English in general tends to be very basic.
Eastern Mebon Temple
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed at Golden Temple Hotel which was, in our group's unanimous opinion, the best hotel of our trip (and it wasn't the most expensive!). Great rooms, very nice pool (despite the water being a bit cold), the most attentive staff I've ever seen in my life, delicious breakfast, and we even got complimentaries massage and lunch. Not to mention the great location, a few blocks from Pub Street - the bustling nightlife area with bars, nightclubs, restaurants, cafes, shops, markets, etc.
When looking for accommodation, try to stay close to Pub Street, but not directly on Pub Street. Staying within 2 to 5 blocks away from Pub Street seams ideal as the city is flat and super quiet for walking
WHAT TO DO IN SIEM REAP
I share below all the activities we did in 5 days in Siem Reap. At the end I put suggestions to cover the best of it in 4, 3 or 2 days.
But before we start with all the details, here is a short list of the must-dos in Siem Reap, those places and experiences you cannot go away without doing:
- visit the temples of Angkor complex - if possible, reserve at least 2 full days to visit them;
- have a drink on Pub Street and stroll around the market next door;
- watch a show at Phare, The Cambodian Circus, an activity that is easy to fit into any day (but buy tickets in advance on the official website)
Preah Khan Temple
SIEM REAP IN 5 DAYS
DAY 1: arrival, lunch, afternoon Angkor National Museum
I strongly recommend going to the Angkor National Museum before visiting the Angkor temples. We bought the ticket at the box office, along with the audio guide (available in English, Spanish and other languages). In the museum there are excellent displays in English explaining the history of the region and the Khmer empire, the Buddhist and Hindu presence, culture and traditions. Don't miss the room about the legend of the churning of the ocean of milk – then you'll see the original panels on the walls of Angkor Wat.
(1), (2) and (3) Siem Reap market ; (4) Angkor Zipline
DAY 2: in the morning we visite the market near Pub Street. In the afternoon, we had some great fun on the Angkor Zipline, and at night we all went to Phare, the Cambodian Circus.
Angkor Zipline is a complex with 9 ziplines and 4 sky bridges inside a preserved forest area near the Angkor temples. The towers that you climb to start the zipline are built around the stems of century-old trees, which is really beautiful. However, the cables themselves are relatively short, so you don't gain much speed. It's a nice tour to do if you have kids and/or time, or if you're just tired of visiting temples and want a bit of excitement and contact with nature.
We decided to go there because our kids love ziplining and we promised them we'd do it at least once on the trip. In the end, we all had a great time.
We bought out tickets at the hotel reception for the same price as on the website, and it included transportation to and from the site.
(1) Phare, the Cambodian Circus; (2) and (3) Angkor National Museum
Phare, the Cambodian Circus is great and worth going even if you don't have kids. The company works with communities in different regions of Cambodia, providing education, tutoring and artistic activities. In addition to a beautiful and fun show, this social mission makes Phare a meaningful and worthwhile experience. The best way to get there from Pub Street area is by tuk-tuk. I recommend buying tickets a few days in advance via the official website.
(1) e (2) Preah Khan Temple; (3) Ta Som Temple; (4) Neak Poan Temple
DAY 3 AND 4: Angkor Temples
The Angkor temple complex comprises over 150 temples, and Angkor Wat, the largest and most famous of among them, is regarded as the largest religious structure ever built in the world and one of the world's foremost archaeological treasures. It is depicted on the flag of Cambodia and in 1992 it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The temples were built between the 9th and 15th centuries AD, a time when the Khmer Empire dominated much of Southeast Asia.
We decided to visit the temples with a local guide who speaks Portuguese, the native language of our children. This allowed them to better understand and engage with the history and culture of the area. It turned out to be the best decision we could have made! Our guide, Samir, is also fluent in English and Spanish (instagram @samethdy29, WhatsApp + 85 597 923 7003) and has an extensive knowledge of the local history and culture
On the first day we visited:
1️⃣Prasat Pre Roup
3️⃣Prasat Ta Som
4️⃣Prasat Preah Neak Pean
5️⃣Prasat Preah Khan
On the second day:
6️⃣Terrace of the Elephants
7️⃣Ta Phrohm (Tomb Raider temple)
There are several other temples and structures in the area, if you are interested you can easily spend 3 or 4 days visiting only the temples.
tickets and a leaflet received when buying the tickets
We purchased the 1-day ticket (US$ 37), which allows you to visit the temples for 2 days. The ticket must be bought in person at the Angkor Enterprise ticket office, where they take a photo of you and print it on the ticket, so you get a personalized ticket and a nice souvenir :-) Children under 12 years old can enter for free.
There are several restaurants scattered around the temple area, so it's easy to find a place to have lunch. On the day we went to Angkor Wat for sunrise our hotel provided a breakfast picnic.
Banteay Srei temple
All the temples we visited were beautiful, but these were my favorites:
Angkor Wat – The main, largest and most famous. Also the most crowded. One of the “must do” when in Siem Reap is to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat. As the guide Samir explained to us, Angkor Wat is the only one of the temples built facing west, so it is the only one where you can see the sun rise behind the temple.
Angkor Wat – This is the main, largest, and most famous temple. It is also the most crowded. Seeing the sunrise at Angkor Wat is a "must do" when in Siem Reap. Our guide Samir explained that Angkor Wat is the only temple built facing west, so it is the only one where you can see the sun rise behind the temple.
I think that a few decades ago, watching this show would really be a unique opportunity for contemplation and meditative reflection. However, today, with the proliferation of mass tourism and the need to post everything on Instagram, be prepared to compete for your place with a crowd of hundreds, maybe thousands of people. Although the sunrise was beautiful – it was the last one of the year – I had mixed feelings about the absurd amount of people gathered around the lake. The children couldn't see anything and went to play on the lawn. I would have liked to go back there at sunset, in the hope to share the place with a resonable amount of travellers, and even get better photos with the late afternoon light - of course no one else in our group was interested :-(. In short, it's worth seeing the sunrise at Angkor Wat, but be prepared for the crowds.
Ta Prohm, or the Tomb Raider Temple – This temple became famous after the film starring Angelina Jolie, and it is really impressive. Unlike the other temples, it was abandoned at some point, and the jungle took over its space, creating an impressive structure in which nature and human ingenuity merge. It's one of the most beautiful temples, and you shouldn't miss it.
Bayon – The giant Buddha faces embedded in the towers are impressive.
Eastern Mebon – This was one of my favorites probably because there were very few people when we visited.
Banteay Srei – This temple is beautiful, and the carvings are very detailed. The color of the stones is slightly pink, creating a beautiful atmosphere.
If you only have one day to visit, I don't know if it's possible to see them all in the same day. However, whatever you (or your guide) choose, you won't regret it.
The best way to visit the temples is with a tour, preferably in small groups. We did ours as a private group (we were seven people). You can also visit by tuk-tuk (with or without a guide), but keep in mind that the temples are far from the town and far from each other. The tours usually last the whole day, so if you go by tuk-tuk, be prepared for shaking, dust, and heat.
It goes without saying: I strongly recommend that you visit the temples with a local guide, as in addition to the scenic beauty of the temples, the history that surrounds them is fascinating. If Samir is not available, here are some other options.
Kampong Phluk floating village, Tonlé Sap Lake
DAY 5: Floating villages on Lake Tonlé Sap. We went again with guide Samir to visit Kampong Phluk, a floating village built on stilts on the shores of an arm of Tonlé Sap Lake.
It is interesting to learn about the way of life of these communities, which are quite simple and closely linked to the lake, which provides fish and water for rice cultivation. We went by van, although the road only goes part of the way, at least at the time we visited, and from there you have to continue by boat. It is also possible to get there by tuk-tuk.
We stopped for lunch at The Hut Phum Steng on the way back and arrived at the hotel in the early afternoon. This tour is shorter than the ones dedicated to the temples, so if your flight/bus leaves Siem Reap in the afternoon/evening, it is possible take the tour in the morning and be back in time to catch the flight/bus.
DAY 6: we left early for Luang Prabang, in Laos.
SIEM REAP IN 4 DAYS
Day 1: visit the Angkor National Museum in the afternoon and attend the Circus in the evening. The market can be visited on any other day, as it is open until 9 or 10 pm
Day 2 & 3: visit the Angkor Temples
Day 4: take a boat tour of the Tonlé Sap Floating Villages
Note: The circus shows are held daily, so you can choose the day that suits you best to attend.
SIEM REAP IN 3 DAYS
Day 1: you can visit the floating villages in the morning and still have time to see the National Museum in the afternoon. However, if you have limited time or prefer a more relaxed pace, you'll need to choose between these activities according to your preference.
Day 2 & 3: visit the Angkor Temples
Kampong Phluk floating village, Tonlé Sap Lake
SIEM REAP IN 2 DAYS
I highly recommend you to dedicate two days to visiting the temples of Angkor. Attempting to visit all the temples in one day is not a practical option, even if you have limited time. There are many temples spread out across a vast area, each with its own rich history, beauty, and art. To truly appreciate and absorb everything, it's best to take your time and spread out your visits over two days.
However, if one day is all you have, make the most of it and see as much as you can!
Preah Khan temple
WHERE TO EAT
I fell in love with Cambodian cuisine. One of the typical dishes in the country is Lok Lak, a stew made with meat or chicken or shrimp, usually served with white rice and salad.
Here are some restaurants we visited and recommend:
- Sambo Khmer & Thai Restaurant: This restaurant was close to our hotel and offered tasty food at great value for money. We visited it three times during our stay.
- Flying Zebra Pizza: If you're in the mood for pizza, we recommend trying this place.
- Asana Old Wooden House, great for a drink, with a cozy atmosphere.
- Café Amazon: This Southeast Asian coffee chain is similar to Starbucks. We only visited once during our time in Cambodia.
- Travancore Indian Restaurant: We might have had bad luck, but all the dishes we ordered were extremely spicy. The ones we managed to eat were still delicious.
- Golden Temple Hotel: We had lunch one day and dinner the other at our hotel's restaurant, and found the prices reasonable and the food delicious.
- R'MIET Restaurant & Bar: This restaurant is clearly aimed at tourists, with a modern design and a location in front of the Siem Reap River. The food was great, but the prices were higher.
Here is the map of our trip on Google MyMaps. I've marked everything we did, where we stayed, and all the cool spots we visited. It's super easy to use and you can even save it to your own Google account for future reference - so when you plan your next trip to Southeast Asia, you already know where to start ;-)
There are different layers on the map, each with a different color, so you can easily see which area we explored. It's seriously such a helpful tool for planning trips, saving places you want to go, and figuring out the best routes. In this post, I explain how to create and use these maps effectively.
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